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Last month, Google quietly rolled out a beta test version of its Gears product for Apple’s web browser Safari. Today, it’s officially ready for prime time.

Gears is an open-source project run by Google which lets users download online data to take it offline. This can be helpful for both working offline as well as speeding up certain websites that you are using online. The latter is true for users of the blogging tool WordPress, which allows for a “Turbo” mode using Gears.

Since it works through a web browser plug-in, Gears was previously only available for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Getting it to work with Safari is a bit different. From the blog post on the Google Mac Blog:

When you install Gears, you’ll notice that it’s composed of 2 components: an NPAPI plugin which lives in “/Library/Internet Plugins” and an InputManager. Gears needs to load first thing upon browser startup, for cases in which the first page loaded into the browser is from the Gears offline cache. NPAPI provides no mechanism for loading that early (it only provides support for loading plugins the first time a page specifically includes them) so we needed a small InputManager to do the work for us.

The recent Gmail outage showed just how important something like Gears is. With increasing usage of online applications such as those made by Google, it’s important for some people to have a way to access their data if they’re not connected to the Internet. You can be sure that Google had Gears in mind as well when developing its own Chrome web browser.

It will be interesting to see if the mobile version of Safari used on the iPhone will add support for Gears. That would be great, since Google applications like Gmail don’t yet have their own stand-alone application on the device. (Of course, Google will have to add Gmail support for Gears first.)

Find Gears for Safari here.

Update: I’ve installed Gears for Safari and it’s working well. It placed a nice Google Docs icon on my desktop and backed up my data very quickly.

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